We finally purchased Avengers Infinity War and sat down to watch it this weekend. The outcome left me feeling deeply dissatisfied, despite the stellar settings and special effects.
Doing some research now, I see it was originally titled Infinity War - Part 1, but sometime during production of the movie they decided to shorten the title. The former would have been more honest and would have set reasonable expectations, because as it is I was expecting a complete story with a satisfying ending like all the other Marvel movies so far.
On its own, which is the only way I knew to view it at the time, the movie does indeed conclude on a natural ending point, but in doing so it kinda breaks an essential contract of trust with the viewer.
Yes, I’m upset that some (actually a lot of) good characters die. It finished on a serious down note with the bad guy winning when you expect the good guys to win somehow. On its own, that is not a problem.
When I analyzed things after the fact from a writer’s perspective, I realized that the lack of satisfaction for me was that I spent two hours watching something that, in the end, was not a story!
I felt misled.
To me, a story involves someone reaching a goal after overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It involves people facing impossible choices with no good outcome, that have you biting your nails wondering which way they’ll go. It involves twists that take your breath away, wondering where the heck that came from.
The overwhelming odds were against the Avengers, not Thanos, as you would expect. He had it easy, and he succeeded. If the baddie is going to win then they need to face significant obstacles too. Yes, Thanos faced a painful choice when it came to the soul stone, but given his single-minded obsession with his quest there was never even a shadow of doubt about what he would do. And various sub-plots like dealing with the mind stone in Vision’s head were hardly obstacles or twists, they felt like artificial padding to ramp up suspense with no emotional payback at the end. The stone is exceedingly difficult to extract safely. They fail to extract it. In the real world that is all ... well, duh! But stories are supposed to take us out of the real world and deliver a satisfying emotional experience.
To summarize: The party with all the power and all the advantages methodically achieves a series of objectives and successfully reaches his final goal. That is not a story, it’s a project report.